There are worse games to base your 79p, no-achievement game on. The original Super Mario Bros is a classic, there’s no doubt about it, and Super Pixel Kid is a gushing love letter to it. It’s got the same love for bottom-bouncing, blocks that shatter once a head connects with them, the shrill sound of picking up coins, and even a staircase of blocks that leads to the final flag. Levels are in the sun and underground, in blue-tinted dungeons. A timer ticks down.

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Super Pixel Kid moves the furniture about a little bit. Goombas are swapped out for mushrooms, koopas are swapped out for four-legged tortoises. A few extra creatures are added in. There are snails, slimes and one-eyed beholders who have been drafted in from Castlevania. But the abiding flavour is of Super Mario Bros, and you will be the best judge of whether that unlocks your purse and gets you handing over 79p.

A review should probably cover more than that. Super Pixel Kid is a pretty good cover band. The controls are fine, with jumps and bottom-bounces executing as you would hope them to. The homage doesn’t stretch as far as suits or fire-flowers for little Pixel Kid, so the gameplay gets stale pretty quickly, but it’s easy to take for granted that this 79p game works.

Levels veer between well-made and created by an algorithm. On occasion, a platforming sequence will be quite well-designed, testing your ability to dink the jump button rather than hold it down, leaping over piranha plants and then ducking under spiders. But then in comes a level that feels utterly phoned in: they’re remixes of Super Mario Bros level 1-1, with no challenge and the odd platform moved about. 

Occasionally, there’s a grenade that’s rolled into the level select screen. Some levels are deviously hard, simply because the platform layout is so awkward. I’ve played levels like this when my daughter hands me her creation in Super Mario Maker 2. They’re just not well thought out (sorry, daughter!). A chasm will have a block in the middle of it that you hit your head on when you try to jump over, knocking you to your doom. That block doesn’t help in any way: it’s just an inconvenient obstacle, and getting past it is a roll of the dice, as luck will determine how you bounce off it. 

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The sheer wealth of levels is crazy. There are 100 levels here, split over five worlds. Now, we’re going to come clean: we didn’t, we couldn’t, complete them all. Aside from the sheer amount of time that we’d need to spend, and the mind-numbing repetition that would entail, there are simply some levels that we couldn’t complete. The level-mapping is so obscure that it feels like they’re designed not to be played. We genuinely wonder if some levels were play-tested: there are such narrow windows to jumping on certain platforms that we question whether it’s possible. 

Repetition is something you’re going to have to swallow if you want to play Super Pixel Kid. It’s better than most 79p games in this regard, as there are more obstacles and enemies in its toybox than several similar games. But 100 levels is an awful lot of ground to cover. It can’t maintain interest with the tools it has. Things begin to grate and slow to a stop. There’s only so many falling platforms and moving platforms that a person can stomach. 

Another surprising addition are the bosses, arriving at the end of each twenty-level chunk. They’re generic, bland little creations, but the fact they exist nudges Super Pixel Kid above its brethren. They act as a reminder that you’ve actually completed twenty levels, so they act a bit like markers on a marathon. 

A quick shout out to the soundtrack. Super Pixel Kid may have one song, but it’s an absolute diamond. Give the trailer a go if you want to hear it: it feels like a chiptune rework of a late 00’s rock song, and we were all over it. We can still hear it now, circling around the head. Absolute cracker. Unfortunately, it’s occasionally blotted out by the honks and screams of some of the enemies, which appear even when those enemies aren’t on the screen.

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Super Pixel Kid is undoubtedly one of the better sub-£1 games that we’ve played on the Xbox, and we’ve played absolute battalions of them. It has the audacity to include 100 levels, some of which are even good, feature some end-of-world bosses, and even chucks in the odd new enemy or obstacle. Squint and this could be a £3.29 game. 

Compare it to anything other than a budget game, though, and Super Pixel Kid comes up wanting. It’s so incredibly close to Super Mario Bros that Nintendo’s famously litigious lawyers might just peek over the wall. Its 100 levels are spread so thin that you can see the coding underneath them, and there are some levels that are feverishly hard, to the point that you wonder if they were play-tested. 

So weigh it up. Do you have 79p and want a Poundland version of Super Mario Bros on the NES? The choice, as they say, is yours.

You can buy Super Pixel Kid from the Xbox Store

There are worse games to base your 79p, no-achievement game on. The original Super Mario Bros is a classic, there’s no doubt about it, and Super Pixel Kid is a gushing love letter to it. It’s got the same love for bottom-bouncing, blocks that shatter once a head connects with them, the shrill sound of picking up coins, and even a staircase of blocks that leads to the final flag. Levels are in the sun and underground, in blue-tinted dungeons. A timer ticks down. Super Pixel Kid moves the furniture about a little bit. Goombas are swapped out for mushrooms,…

Pros:

  • A reasonably decent cover of Super Mario Bros
  • 100 levels is a fair chunk
  • Controls and gameplay works fine

Cons:

  • Levels can be absolute bastards
  • 100 levels get extraordinarily thin
  • No idea of its own

Info:

  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Purchased by TXH
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
  • Version reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
  • Release date - 12 October 2022
  • Launch price from - £3.29 (immediately discounted to 79p)
TXH Score

2.5/5

Pros:

  • A reasonably decent cover of Super Mario Bros
  • 100 levels is a fair chunk
  • Controls and gameplay works fine

Cons:

  • Levels can be absolute bastards
  • 100 levels get extraordinarily thin
  • No idea of its own

Info:

  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Purchased by TXH
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
  • Version reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
  • Release date - 12 October 2022
  • Launch price from - £3.29 (immediately discounted to 79p)

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